Rappaccini’s Daughter Summary: This is an allegorical Short Story written by Nathaniel Hawthorn. It was first published in United States Magazine and Democratic Review in December 1844. This article contains a critical analysis and Rappaccini’s Daughter Summary.
“Rappaccini’s Daughter” is an imaginative and moral bearing story based on the life of a doctor named Rappaccini. He is overdoing in his struggle just to add to his scientific knowledge and raise his name in the field of medicine. He represents the evil of extreme self-love though he proves to be his own foe. He wishes to manifest his medical genius to the people around him in which he doubtlessly succeeds. Doctor Rappaccini does know some secrets of Nature but not all, he wants to exceed the limits imposed by Divine Power and this brings disaster in his life; his daughter becomes the victim of his terrible science.
The story is about a scientist who has developed a strange interest in science limiting on the borders of madness. The irony and pathos lie in the fact that Dr. Rappaccini, a scientist, should be working for the philanthropic purposes serving the mankind but instead he is working for his personal glory. He is interested in the sick people “only as subject of some new experiment”. He grows some poisonous plants in his garden. He has a beautiful daughter named, Beatrice. Rappaccini has fed her on poison. Now Beatrice and poison cannot be separated. She is a living poison. Her father has ruined her social life.
Probably, the most ironic and simultaneously pathetic episode in this story is the predicament of his daughter, Beatrice. He brings his daughter up in the company of poisonous plants. He feeds her on the poisonous smell of plants. This he does, probably, to save her from all the dangers of the society. He believes that the fair sex is exposed to all the evils of society. So he gives to his daughter “marvellous gifts which no power can nor strength can oppose”. He does not want to see his daughter as a “weak woman, suffering all evil….”
Rappaccini wants his daughter to be happy but the irony is that she has become the saddest person in existence. She has no friend, no schooling and no society around her. She lives with her father alone. She cannot come in contact with anyone because if anybody comes near her, he is in danger of death. We do witness that an insect comes near her and falls flat on the ground because of Beatrice’s breath. She remains gloomy but this sadness adds to her natural beauty. Then, there is a romantic episode in the life of that unfortunate child.
Giovanni, a young student, comes to live next door. He falls in love with Beatrice at first sight. Though Dr. Baglioni, a professor of Giovanni, does warn Giovanni of the dangerous effects of Beatrice and Rappaccini’s malign intentions, yet Giovanni cannot hold his love. He often meets Beatrice and gradually becomes poisonous. When Giovanni realizes that Beatrice’s poisonous effects have affected her, he blames her of foul play. She tries to tell him that she is not a part of any evil plan. She came to him as a lonely person would rush to the first vessel appearing on an island.
Dr. Baglioni gives them an antidote which is opposite to the effects of Dr. Rappaccini’s poison. Beatrice asks Giovanni to let her drink that poison so that she is the first to die. She sacrifices her life for the sake of Giovanni. Dr. Rappaccini is sad at the death of his daughter but he can do nothing because he cannot reverse his evil deed.